USMNT rides strong second half and Pepi double to top Jamaica

USMNT rides strong second half and Pepi double to top Jamaica

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USMNT rides strong second half and Pepi double to top Jamaica

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The U.S. men’s national team found itself in a battle against Jamaica on Thursday night, but Gregg Berhalter’s squad delivered another game-changing second half, and it was once again Ricardo Pepi delivering the heroics.

The FC Dallas striker followed up his outstanding showing against Honduras in September with a two-goal display to help lead the USMNT to a 2-0 win over Jamaica at Q2 Stadium in Austin.

The win propelled Gregg Berhalter’s side to its first home win of the new qualifying cycle, and Pepi stole the show again, becoming the youngest USMNT player to score in back-to-back qualifying matches in the modern-era.

Despite a frantic start, the USMNT could not take advantage of its first-half edge in possession, or force a save from Andre Blake in the opening 45 minutes. Referee Reon Radix decided to rule against a possible red card offense on Kemar Lawrence in the second minute of the match after the Jamaican defender fouled Paul Arriola on a breakaway attempt.

Radix was put under pressure again later in the half as Brenden Aaronson was hauled down by Damion Lowe just outside of the Jamaica penalty box. Lowe was given a yellow card for his challenge, but it was another example of the absence of VAR in Concacaf’s World Cup Qualifying cycle.

Pepi found the breakthrough goal in the 49th minute after breaking away from the Jamaican backline and heading home Sergino Dest’s cross. Matt Turner started a fast restart from the back and eventually Dest’s cross from the right wing was headed home by Pepi.

The 18-year-old was it again in the 62nd minute, getting on the end of Aaronson’s pass in the center of the box and slotting home his second goal of the match.

Andre Blake scrambled in the dying stages of the match to deny Gyasi Zardes a goal off the bench, but Jamaica had to watch as it suffered a third qualifying defeat so far this year.

Matt Turner was called into action once for the USMNT, preserving a second shutout in four matches.

The USMNT, which moved into first place in the Octagonal with the win (at least temporarily before the Mexico-Canada qualifier) will next travel to Panama on Sunday before hosting Costa Rica in Columbus on October 13. Jamaica sits last in the group and hosts Canada on Sunday before traveling to Honduras on Oct. 13.

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